Discovery of a protein that blocks the coronavirus in the lungs

A receptor naturally expressed in the lungs would prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2. This discovery could make it possible to develop new drugs against viral infections and pulmonary fibrosis, which are sometimes triggered with Covid-19.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered a protein naturally expressed by lung fibroblasts that prevents SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is the protein 15 containing leucine-rich repeats (called “LRRC15”), a receptor whose name suggests a type of pile and which binds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to block it. ” We can now use this new receptor to design broad-acting drugs that can block viral infection or even suppress pulmonary fibrosis. », said Professor Greg Neely, co-author of the new study. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is currently untreatable.

LRRC15 acts like “molecular Velcro” on the tip of the virus

As a reminder, SARS-CoV-2 infects lung cells because they have high levels of ACE2 receptors on their surface. The same is true for the LRRC15, but the latter manages to get rid of the coronavirus. ” We think it acts a bit like molecular Velcro, in that it sticks to the tip of the virus and pulls it away from target cell types. “, explain the scientists.

The researchers also said the presence or absence of LRRC15 — involved in lung repair — is an important indication of the severity of a coronavirus infection.

The discovery could help develop new antiviral and antifibrotic drugs. Fibrosis is a condition in which the lung tissue scars and thickens, leading to breathing difficulties; Covid-19 sometimes causes fibrosis. The study was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

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